Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A response to comments on the problem of evil

I was somewhat kidding when I called this the end of the argument from evil. But only somwhat. I think it does show, however, that it's going to be very difficult to press an argument from evil through that is going to be successful regardless of what value theory the theist happens to hold. This of course is a hardly an insane value theory, and it seems to leave the theist with a successful defense against the problem of evil. But I must admit that I myself have a qualm or two about the sweeping consequentialism of the value theory underlying my argument.

It makes matters worse for you if you are a moral subjectivist and are trying to rebut this (a favorite point of mine). Because now can't say that my theodicy is in conflict with the true theory of value. What you now have to do is argue that some theory of value that supports the argument from evil is ENTAILED by Christian theism. Good luck doing that.

Making an argument that some value theory is just plain wrong is going to be difficult, as well.
You may be committed to the kind of rights-based value theory would impose upon God the obligation of not permitting suffering of type X or amount Y.

Even if you show that I hold a value theory that supports the argument from evil, all that does is show that I have to abandon theism or change my value theory.

Consider LaCroix's premise that John quoted:

L: If God is the greatest possible good then if God had not created there would be nothing but the greatest possible good.

Why should I accept that? It seems to define good the absence of evil or suffering. I thought it was the other way around--evil is the privation of good.

2 comments:

Edward T. Babinski said...

Vic, Christians have ALWAYS had a response to the problem of evil, the same answer in fact, the primary answer in their souls, which is simply to view every single bit of pain and suffering, from endless pains and sufferings, deaths and extinctions of animals species for over a billion years, to the physical and psychological sufferings of humans and their children, to the physical and psychological sufferings of people in eternal hell. What is the answer? It is "God's will." An orthodox doctrinal Christian theist accepts every bit of suffering from the beginning of life on this planet to the suffering of any "non-Christians" for all eternity. No problem.

Or you can do as you're doing and continue to pick at the problem of evil solving nothing, proving nothing to either side, because you have no objective way to measure all the good and all the evil that you speak about God "maximizing or minimizing" in your arguments. Do you have a "good-and-evil-o-meter" by which you can obtain measureable values of good and evil, or do you wish to rant about "maximizing the good and diminishing the evil" as if your philosophizing can lead to some objective divinely inspired and divinely known measures concerning such things? So your "answer" lay in "the mystery" of whatever "God's will and God's knowledge" is concerning such measures of such values. The hidden mystery is your answer, and your faith that God has a plan and measures such values and maximized them.

As for "evil," its a stretchable metaphysical term (as most metaphysical terms are), and it can apply to more things than just pain or pleasure, because for all any Christian knows, "evil" consists of not believing as a Christian ought concerning a host of invisible unseen doctrines about God and the afterlife, which makes unbelief itself a kind of "maximum" of "evil" because it demands "eternal punishment."

See? You can prove anything via combining "faith" with "philosophy."

CONCLUSION: If the problem of evil is anything at all it is something people sense in a more direct fashion, just as some people sense that everything in their host of religious beliefs is true. Either you can imagine all the pain and suffering as part of some Divine plan, or it simply does not appear to be very well planned out, and you have doubts. Not that there may not be something out there beyond explanation. But if it doesn't appear like all the evils taken together are part of a "divine plan" to someone, then you can't argue that someone out of the "problem" that they perceive exists with "evil." And vice versa.

Or as Mark Twain once remarked about appearances and the questions they raise:

"Such is the history of it. Man has been here for a couple million years. That it took over a billion years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is. I dunno. If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno."

Twain also wrote:

"The Creator always has his eye on the poor. Nine-tenths of the diseases he invented were intended for the poor, and they get them. The well-to-do get only what is leftover. The vast bulk of the afflictions invented by the Creator are specially designed for the persecution of the poor. The poor’s most implacable and unwearying enemy is their Father in Heaven. The poor’s only real friend is their fellow man; he is sorry for them, he pities them, and he shows it by his deeds. He does much to relieve their distresses; and in every case their Father in Heaven gets the credit for it.

"Just so with diseases. If science exterminates a disease which has been working for God, it is God that gets the credit, and all the pulpits break into grateful advertising-raptures and call attention to how good he is! Yes, he has done it. Perhaps he has waited a thousand years before doing it. That is nothing; the pulpit says he was thinking about it all the time. When exasperated men rise up and sweep away an age-long tyranny and set a nation free, the first thing the delighted pulpit does is to advertise it as God’s work, and invite the people to get down on their knees and pour out their thanks to him for it. And the pulpit says with admiring emotion, “Let tyrants understand that the Eye that never sleeps is upon them; and let them remember that the Lord our God will not always be patient, but will loose the whirlwinds of his wrath upon them in his appointed day.”

"They forget to mention that he is the slowest mover in the universe; that his Eye that never sleeps, might as well, since it takes it a century to see what any other eye would see in a week; that in all history there is not an instance where he thought of a noble deed first, but always thought of it just a little after somebody else had thought of it and done it. He arrives then, and annexes the dividend."

Duke of Earl said...

All together now...

One...

Two...

Three...

Bollocks!

The Christian answer to the "problem" of suffering is the fall and the curse. It is true that this is not compatible with the dogma of billions of years but I fail to see that as a problem. We told God to butt out of our affairs and he left us alone with ourselves. If this were God's world we wouldn't have a problem, but it isn't, it's ours.

The anguish of non-Christians among the lost is the result of their own free-will decision to reject the message of salvation, to rely on their own self-righteousness. Those that have not heard the gospel will only be judged on the morality they do know.

For myself, my expectation is that if anyone were able to ask God why suffering exists in the world His response would be "what are you doing about it?"